In Cuba, “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right”

September 19, 2013 | Print Print |

On Cuban Musician Carcasses’ Recent Statements

Fernando Ravsberg*

Roberto Carcasses voiced his demands before thousands of people, during a concert aired live on Cuban television (Photo: Raquel Perez).

Roberto Carcasses voiced his demands before thousands of people, during a concert aired live on Cuban television (Photo: Raquel Perez).

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban musician Roberto Carcasses’ recent declarations at a concert, organized to demand the release of the Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States, gave rise to a political tsunami. It is the only thing intellectual circles on the island seem to be talking about, as though they regarded the incident as something of primordial importance.

Carcasses’ statements are the talk of the day because many Cubans heard them directly, through a live airing of the concert, where the artist made a whole range of demands, placing freedom of expression, the legalization of marihuana, the right to free elections and to purchase a car all in the lyrics of a song.

A number of exasperated young colleagues wrote me through social networks to protest about the fault-finding musician. I’ve also read the posts of professional bloggers now “asking for blood” (and was far from surprised, as they always want to appear more Marxist than Marx).

The incident has also raised the hopes of anti-Castro circles outside the island. There, they are convinced that “Carcasses is the tip of the ice-berg”, that the “the people are losing their fear to speak out”, and again dream of the popular uprising that Cuba’s internal dissidents have been unable to bring about.

The average Cubans I spoke with are divided into those who see Carcasses as an opportunist who “stole the stage during the concert for the Cuban Five”, those who regard him as a courageous artist who “put everything on the line”, those who think he “exercised his rights in the wrong place” and those (the majority) who simply find the whole thing rather boring.

Carcasses voiced his demands before thousands of people, during a concert aired live on Cuban television (Photo: Raquel Perez).

Carcasses voiced his demands before thousands of people, during a concert aired live on Cuban television (Photo: Raquel Perez).

The truth of the matter is that these statements would not have become anything other than an anecdote had the artist not been immediately punished by Cuban authorities, intent on curtailing his career indefinitely – a move that would pretty much oblige him to emigrate and take his music elsewhere.

This set off the alarm. Some left-leaning Cuban blogs, like La Joven Cuba, warned readers of the political costs of such a measure. No one listened, however, until Silvio Rodriguez, a voice that is more difficult to silence, entered the stage.

The renowned singer-songwriter invited the chastised artist to participate in his next two concerts, placing the censors in the difficult position of having to cancel these performances in order to enforce their decision.

The irony to this is that Silvio believes his colleague “made a serious blunder.” He says he would have preferred Carcasses had made his statements at a different concert, because “the struggle for the freedom of the Cuban Five is a sacred flag of the Cuban people that ought to be placed well above other issues.”

Despite this, he decided to intervene because “the institution that administers the work of music professionals in Cuba is making another blunder in response to my colleague.” Silvio got involved “to condemn these practices, which belong to the past, to condemn the fact they are being implemented in this day and age.”

Silvio Rodriguez suffered such measures himself when he was still a rebellious young artist. What he learned from the experience is that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” He feels it is truly “dreadful that the cause of the Five should be used as a pretext for an act of repression.”

As for me, I was not in the least surprised by the measure. I know singers who have been denied a stage for two years only for expressing their opinions publicly and a Cuban television journalist who was suspended for 12 months because of the “ideological content” of one of his reports.

Carcasses’ statements irritated some because they were voiced at a function calling for the release of the Cuban Five (Photo: Raquel Perez).

Carcasses’ statements irritated some because they were voiced at a function calling for the release of the Cuban Five (Photo: Raquel Perez).

Since the 70s, the Communist Party’s ideology department has acted as the spearhead of the government’s most intolerant hardliners, marginalizing believers and homosexuals, maintaining the press under rigid control and attacking any form of artistic or intellectual expression that strays from the official line.

This is not the first time something like this happens. The novelty is that the story had a happy ending. The authorities thought it over, chose to converse with the artist and reported that “the talks were so positive that they’ve decided to annul the punishment.”

To say that the pressure [of those supporting Carcasses] worked would be only part of the truth. The new cadres at the Party’s Ideology Department may also have had a say in this. This new blood could ultimately bring significant changes,

In his letter in support of Carcasses, Silvio Rodriguez states that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. I would add that when, in spite of this, someone makes another mistake, righting such a wrong is not a sign of weakness or strength, but a basic act of justice.
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(*) An authorized HT translation of the original posted in Spanish by BBC Mundo.


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